By on April 26, 2011

They’re baaaack! Ever since Cadillac displayed its XTS Platinum Concept as a future flagship model, the brand’s lack of a range-topping super-luxo-barge has become an increasingly regular complaint. The XTS’s humble (Epsilon II platform) roots, modest proportions and general “Buick-in-Caddy-clothes” vibe led TTAC to dub it “The Phantom Flagship,” a criticism that has echoed throughout the automotive media. The issue isn’t so much whether or not the XTS is a good luxury car, but rather the fact that even Hyundai has a more plausible large, rear-drive, V8-powered flagship in the traditional mold. With Cadillac’s products and image steadily improving, the lack of a legitimate flagship is even more glaring. Last summer, after several months of griping from Cadillac fans, rumors began to surface that GM’s then-CEO Ed Whitacre was pushing for a “proper” rear-drive flagship. Well, the rumors are back… and as before, they’re as confusing as ever. Luckily, we’ll have more than a few years to speculate about this mythical beast… so let’s get the party started.

The latest batch of rumors trace back to Car and Driver, which reports

According to insiders, Cadillac’s new flagship model will be built on a standalone rear-drive platform, dubbed Omega, rather than sharing underpinnings with the CTS or upcoming ATS. [It] will be powered by six- and eight-cylinder engines, and all-wheel drive would be optional. A hybrid version could follow later, a diesel— which would account for the bulk of the vehicle’s sales in Europe—won’t. The new, impressively styled sedan will be launched in 2014 as a 2015 model.

The platform issue has been the bugbear of all Cadillac flagship rumors, and this latest round is no exception. The rumored “standalone” Omega platform is a huge question mark, as competitors have spent upwards of a billion dollars developing unique-platformed flagship sedans (notably the Mercedes W140 S-Class). As a result, the previous iterations of Caddy flagship rumors involved derivatives of either the CTS’s Sigma platform or the Caprice/Camaro/G8 Zeta platform. After all, as we explored during the last flagship-fest, GM has plenty of demands on its cash, and a Cadillac flagship might not necessarily be the top priority, especially with a new ATS sports sedan aimed directly at the BMW 3-Series juggernaut requiring hefty investments to fulfill its mission.

So what is this Chinese-developed “Omega” platform? GM Shanghai was previously in charge of developing an extended-wheelbase version of the Sigma-based STS (called SLS), which was the basis of a previous C&D Caddy flagship rumor. C&D now seems certain that this is not the basis of the new flagship, but as Jack Baruth has convincingly argued, platforms are a tenuous concept at best. Given that GM Shanghai’s history of leading platform development is essentially limited to stretching Sigma, it’s entirely possible that this new “standalone” platform is, in fact, an evolution of the SLS’s underpinnings. After all, isn’t Holden supposed to be GM’s rear-drive “home room,” and failing that, wouldn’t Opel be the logical choice to develop a super-premium flagship? Further confusing the situation is the name of this rumored flagship platform, which was previously referred to as “Beta,” and has been described as a Shanghai-led development of a canceled “Zeta II” Holden project.

But, like all good Cadillac flagship rumors, this one isn’t just confusing… it’s got elements of outrageousness as well. Namely, the second part of C&D’s report, which suggests

We also have learned that General Motors is considering an even more exciting use for the Omega platform—though it’s one we’re skeptical will see the light of day. Our sources tell us that Cadillac is looking at building a super-luxury sedan to compete head-on with the likes of the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Bear in mind that this is coming from the outlet that previously “reported” that, in addition to a large a rear-drive Cadillac,

a second vehicle under consideration is more expressive and more expensive but decidedly lower volume. The exact shape of this possible car has yet to be decided; proposals include a large—nearly Maybach-large—high-end asphalt crusher, a Mercedes CL–sized personal luxury coupe, a high-performance coupe, a four-door B-pillarless sedan, a trend-following four-door coupe, or, most interesting, a mid-engine two-seat sports car built on a new platform.

So, rather than developing a mid-engine supercar, Cadillac’s bosses decided the Phantom was the more vulnerable segment? If C&D is on to something with the Phantom-fighter rumor, it would seem to confirm the development of an all-new platform, as it is unlikely that GM Shanghai’s engineers can stretch Sigma to much beyond the SLS’s 120 inch wheelbase in order to compete with the Phantom’s 140-inch ‘base, let alone the new stretched Phantom’s 150-incher. And though putting two cars on the same platform makes sense, a legitimate Phantom-fighter would not be some cheap two-fer to improve return on development costs… a solid personal luxury coupe would lower development costs on the platform (by removing the need for extended-wheelbases) and add volume relatively cheaply. Where’s that rumor?

Ultimately, trying to make sense of these rumors continues to be an exercise in frustration. Contradictory, counter-intuitive details could easily be a smokescreen, while the entire Phantom-fighter thing could simply be a way to keep up interest in the brand, which won’t launch any new products until the 2013 model-year, when the ATS, XTS and possibly a Lambda-based crossover are scheduled to debut. And since the rumored Omega “flagship” won’t arrive until at least the 2015 model-year, we’ve got lots of time to pick through the rumors, hints, and innuendo.

 

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51 Comments on “Are You Ready For Three More Years Of Cadillac Flagship Rumors?...”


  • avatar
    mjz

    This would be a big waste of time and money to develop what will be a very low volume product. Mercedes, BWW and Audi can do this because they are GLOBAL luxury brands, Cadillac is not.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      But Cadillac wants to be, and they can’t get there with the CTS alone. They know that the first generation of whatever they come up with will sell at low volume and not recoup development costs and that’s part of the cost of trying to enter a different market.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Building an actual, honest-to-goodness, legitimate Rolls Royce competitor instantly makes Cadillac a global competitor.

      Yes, it will be a low volume product, by definition.

      But then, so was the Ford GT40. And pretty much every other “halo” car ever produced.

      If Cadillac is truly serious about reclaiming “the Standard of the World”, then a Rolls Royce equivalent is indeed a necessary car for the brand’s future.

      I can’t wait to see it.

    • 0 avatar

      #1 I think Hyundai has proved that you can’t get “there” if you don’t try. 

      #2 Cadillac has what it takes to make a luxury flagship but they need youthful designers to help them.  

      Take my Mom’s  STS for example.  The car itself is the technological equivalent of an E350 fully loaded – but, it has more power. Problem is, the technology suite is difficult to use (who the hell designed this anyway?) and it’s too small (only a little bigger than the CTS in the 2nd row.   http://www99.epinions.com/review/2009_Cadillac_STS/content_534837628548

      The way I see it, the STS could be stretched a little more and given a higher end interior/exterior. That would allow it to compete with at least Audi and Jaguar.  I doubt they could compete with Mercedes and BMW cause when you reach that level, people tend to buy based on name equity. Whatever they think is most awesome is what they’ll buy. 

      Biggest problem with Cadillac is that their interiors ALL OF THEM feel cheap compared to BMW and Mercedes.  Thing is, most people aren’t gonna spend $90,000 for a cadillac unless you are giving them some serious bling appeal.  None of Cadillac’s car’s have that appeal. Not the XLR and definitely not the sixteen concept. 

      I also don’t feel the stealth design concept is going to work well with a big car. It’s too polarizing unlike my S550′s soft serpentine like curves – or the BMW 7′s Sharklike angles. They need a new DNA altogether.

      #3 I don’t think anyone can build a Rolls Royce competitor. That car is 100% ego. Maybach tried and they FAILED because the S-class was a better, more frugal choice and the Maybach didn’t have the presence the rolls do. The grill area on those things are bigger than the grill on my old SUV. A Rolls is a fine automobile. That’s why it’s insulting to see people compare Lexus LS and gasp – Hyundai Equus with one. When those other two cars are rotting away in a junk heap someday, that rolls will still be in a fine auto’s garage.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        2. Caddy is probably the only company which can legitimately challenge Rolls at the top end. It has the history, and it has the hunger. It also deliberately appeals to the people who want to make the kind of obvious public statement that is associated with something as purely conspicuous as a Rolls.

        Interiors at the Rolls level are actually easier than at the S-level, because it’s handbuilt coachbuilding. Given a full Rolls budget, GM can outsource the Caddy interior to China, and get truly *incredible* work simply because the money goes so much farther.

        The Art & Science “stealth fighter” look scales to something sized like a Phantom EWB. It’s just that the Sixteen did a really piss-poor job on the exterior. I mean shamefully bad. The Sixteen was showcasing the engine, not an entire car, so it’s badly shaped from that perspective. Redesign the car around the passengers, using a lightly-blown long-stroke big-block V-8, and the car will take on some very handsome proportions.

        Maybach failed miserably because it was too conservative. With the strong passenger emphasis, if GM *really* had the balls, they’d have the design work done entirely in Shanghai, by GM China, with GM US only in a consulting role for historical purposes. Then have GM Europe do the chassis dynamics development and tuning.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The current STS is actually a better car, fundamentally, then most people give it credit for.  There’s no good reason GM couldn’t, eg, give it a wheelbase stretch and an interior that wasn’t worse than that of the original CTS.  I never understood what GM was thinking in making a car that, for all intents and purposes, was worse than the model one slot below it.  

    On same note, I have no idea how they managed to screw up the XLR.  I mean, if the Corvette is an otherwise-excellent car that needs a nicer interior, and the XLR was to be a Corvette with a nicer interior, why did GM see fit to strip the Corvette’s engine and suspension from the XLR and not significantly improve the interior?  

    I mean, really, how hard would it have been to get the XLR or STS right?

    • 0 avatar
      getacargetacheck


      Just another example of a carmaker juggling too many brands.  They feel they have to dumb dow n the lower priced product so the upper priced one doesn’t feel too much heat.  Meanwhile, the competition eats their lunch and the XLR gets cancelled.  Hyundai’s strategy of not creating a luxury brand (even though it was done for economic reasons) seems smart by comparison.  Honda and Nissan (and maybe Toyota with the way things are going over there) should do likewise and ditch their pitiful “luxury” brands.

      I mean, if the Corvette is an otherwise-excellent car that needs a nicer interior, and the XLR was to be a Corvette with a nicer interior, why did GM see fit to strip the Corvette’s engine and suspension from the XLR and not significantly improve the interior?  

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    GM should ditch Cadillac.  Seriously who cares?  With all the money GM wastes on Cadillac it could probably shorten the lifecycle of its entire Chevrolet lineup and put the rest of the industry on its heels.  Is anyone really impressed when a Cadillac drives up?

    • 0 avatar
      CamaroKid

      It won’t be long now.  Look at the model line up for 2012… One car, one entry level ute, and one rebadged GMC truck.  Dead brand walking…  When Cadillac only sells 75,000 cars and trucks next year and when the XTS fails to recover any of the fleet and professional car sales… Cadillac will join Pontiac, Olds, Saturn, Hummer, Mercury, Plymouth, Imperial, etc….

      • 0 avatar
        getacargetacheck

        I don’t see people lining up for the ATS either.  What other reason besides it’s different from a 3 Series would buyers choose it?  Maybe it’ll be cheaper and faster (doubtful given GM’s weight problem in every new car it introduces).  The ATS will be to the 3-Series what the Tundra is to the F-150.

    • 0 avatar
      hifi

      Many people are. Frankly, I’m not impressed when someone pulls up in an SL or 7-Series or Lexus LS. But there is something about a CTS-V that is very cool. And even though it’s just a tarted-up Suburban, the Escalade is pretty impressive. If Cadillac can build a legitimate flagship that’s on par with a Bentley or RR, it sure wouldn’t hurt the brand.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Here’s my prediction IF it happens.  Super-premium version of the Park Avenue that’s currently sold in China.  Running out of ideas GM christens it – Cadillac FTS for Fleetwood Touring Sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      Of course there would have to be a wagon version- Cadillac FTW!

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      That super-premium Park Avenue in creased origami sheetmetal would only be a S-Class fighter. It wouldn’t be a Rolls-fighter. It’s not big enough – a Rolls Phantom is a *huge* car.

      That said, starting with a S-fighter would be a good thing, and then grow it to a SEL.

      But any Phantom-fighter would need one heck of a stretch, that’s for sure. Still, if they did that, then they could even slot in a new Eldo:
      * Fleetwood Touring Sedan in LWB “Brougham” and V variants
      * Eldorado four-door “coupe” a la CLS, with V option
      * DeVille S/SEL-fighter, also in LWB and V variants

      Based on positioning, I doubt there would be any “wagons” outside the mortuary fleet market.

      But it’s all step-wise, as I doubt Caddy can work on all 3 of them, so this would take a while.

      And as Maybach shows, doing a half-assed job doesn’t cut it when you’re going against Rolls.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I wish GM would just sell the Chinese Park Avenue over here right now.  As a Buick.

      Instead we get the XTS and this 3-series fighter stuff.

  • avatar
    86er

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again.

    Yikes.

  • avatar
    aspade

    The Escalade was Cadillac’s success story of the 00s, or at least the part of the 00s when truck wasn’t a pejorative.  It was a great flagship for a country that doesn’t have autobahns which, last I checked, this country still doesn’t.
     
    So look at what they did right there, and do it again for the 10s.  Take a volume platform which you’re good at and buyers already love.  The Lambda sold 230,000 units last year.  Add this year’s version of bling to it.  In 2000 it was more V8 and taller wheels.  This year it’s connectivity and hybrid crap.  So slather them on.  If you’re going to sell it for $80,000 you can stick in a $15,000 plugin battery pack that isn’t a loss leader.  Great.  Do that too.
     
    The SRX/Equinox/Terrain sold another 270,000 last year.  Buyers are eating that up too.  So make that the little brother.
     
    Leave the S class to Mercedes.  Since we all know perfectly well that if GM went for that what they’d end up with is a 2nd rate S class.  Stick to what you know.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Given how good the CTS and SRX are, how far Benz has fallen from their heyday, and it’s pretty clear GM could give the S a run for the money. GM shouldn’t be afraid to grab the bull by the horns. Boldness is required if they want to walk the walk.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      aspade has got it right.
      Forget going head-to-head with the Germans. Cadillac is unlikely to be able to generate that kind of luxury mystique in the near future.
      Instead, concentrate on doing a tufted velour version of a proven market segment. ie. a bigger version of the SRX with better leather and mouse fur.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Tell me again about how I can’t buy an Insignia OPC, LS3-powered CTS, or Zeta sedan because of tightening CAFE standards…

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Just spitballin’….what if they put a sedan on a stretched Corvette chassis?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Resurrect the SSR?

    Did I see the word “pillarless”? NOW you’ve got my attention!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Why wouldn’t they use the Zeta platform? That seems like a no brainer to me.

  • avatar

    Caddyizing a LWB Holden Statesman would be easy enough, It could have been done 10 years ago but neither Ford or GM want to sell RWD cars in the US.

  • avatar

    A Phantom competitor? GM could do it.

    Exciting times!

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Short of taking the same route Lexus did with the original LS, it’s just not going to work.  It’s expensive, but you’ve got to aim high to make a splash in this segment, that’s why the LS was such a success right out of the box.

    Honestly, Cadillac’s about 20 years too late.  The flagship cars are all so over the top it’d be harder and more expensive to jump in now, I think.  Even Infiniti, who’s been trying valiantly to compete in the top-tier for years now, hasn’t made a dent.  How can Cadillac hope to even have a chance?

    Stick to the CTS and push it further upmarket when the ATS comes out.  The XTS is a mistake…FWD premium cars should be exclusively Buick territory.  And the existing Buick line is priced WAY too close to Chevy.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Infiniti is a bad example. Their Q45 halo was a disaster from the get-go.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        It was a disaster, and that illustrates my point.  It was a good car, but it wasn’t a clean-sheet design properly tailored for the market.  The styling and handling of the early cars were off-putting to typically conservative buyers, the brand image was dubious and the marketing was terrible.

        Cadillac needs to do their homework and do this right, or don’t even bother.  It’s a far too-expensive segment to compete in just to be an also ran.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This product will launch alongside the rear-engined Wankel-powered Corvette.

    Seriously, GM should focus on products that make them money, not headline-grabbers suitable for C&D covers.

  • avatar
    william442

    It would be folly for GM to attempt this. At Mr. Baruth’s suggestion, I recently tested a CTS V6, no Vs available. Last Friday I drove the E Class coupe. My very subjective conclusion; even needing more power, and a tighter suspension, the Benz is superior. Cadillac has a ways to go, not that they are not capable, they just won’t do it right.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Did you think the Caddy represented any value, or was the E simply worth the $10K difference?

      • 0 avatar
        william442

        After 12 years with a very reliable C43, I suspect I was prepared to dislike the Cadillac. The vision was a problem for my 72 year old neck, but nothing else stood out.
        The Cadillac horn problems of the 70s involved my part, which GM refused to re-design.
        I smiled more in the Benz.
        Sorry for the non answer.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Having driven both back-to-back, and owned two Benz E-classes from that same timeframe to boot (E500 and an E55), there is almost zero comparison between a CTS and the CTS-V. The CTS-V really is nearly as good as an E500, and obviously faster and more fun to drive. It can’t touch an E55. But I still wish I’d bought the CTS-V because I’m certain it wouldn’t have been the maintenance nightmare that both Benzes were.

  • avatar

    I think this might be for real, and if so it’s clearly all about China. The idea of a $150k+ maybe-V12-or-even-V16-powered super-mega Cadillac sedan of doom seems a little absurd for the U.S. given GM’s other priorities, but it would establish Cadillac as a bigtime lux brand in a hurry in China if well-executed — and that might really, legitimately be worth spending a billion or more to do.
    I just hope they put tailfins on it.

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      Exactly.  This is about China, the biggest market in the world for the highest end cars.  And one in which there isn’t too much prior Cadillac experience to sour the brand.  Rather, they’ve got an opportunity to build their brand on solely the best parts of their historical past and the vehicles they offer today.  In China I’ve seen the CTS and the new SRX on the road.  They are relatively rare, especially compared to the German luxury brands, but that means there is plenty of opportunity for growth.  I’ve heard they sell the Escalade there, which would truly be a unique car to see in China, however, I’ve never seen one on the roads there.

      If it’s developed by Shanghai GM, all of us in America will find that distasteful.  But that will appeal to the Chinese sense of nationality and will probably open the door to more buyers in the market where it will matter most. And it will be done at a fraction of the cost of doing it here in the US.  Sure, it’s pissing all over the brand in the name of short term gain, but GM’s been doing that forever.  And the gain in this instance may not be so short term.
       

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        If GM sends the development of the top Caddy to Shanghai, it’ll probably be a truer, purer Cadillac than anything developed in the US in the past 75 years.

        It won’t be some lukewarm update. Look at the their take on the baby Enclave, and their version of the Riv. Shanghai does some really good work. More Buick than Buick. I would love to see a Chinese-developed Cadillac Fleetwood, and how it would advance the brand into the new millennium.

        The Chinese know the top end, and what it takes to be there. The nouveau riche in China are the perfect demographic to design this car for, to make that ultimate statement.

        As for the American perceptions bit, the answer is that it’s a “global” car.

    • 0 avatar

      The answer to the “American perceptions” questions might be as simple as building the thing at Lansing Grand River. Most won’t know or care where the design work was done.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Never has Cadillac been caught with there pants down more than the pathetic 2012 lineup. Yes for 2012 you can buy any Cadillac sedan you want as long as it’s the compact sized CTS. It also comes in ugly coupe and trendy but small quarters wagon flavors too. Want a V8 full sized sedan. Sorry. Want a RWD V6 mid size. Sorry. Want a full size FWD with even a V6. Well we can’t help you there until 2013 and even then it’s just rumors and speculation and another dumb letter name change on the already poorly designed LaCrosse chassis which has far less interior width and trunk space than the outgoing DTS. Well you can buy the smaller sized CUV SRX that finally has the engine it should have used all along or the gas hog grossly overpriced Escalade. Lincoln’s lineup is often criticized as having poor product and not enough direction. Well GM just took first prize for the 2012 lineup.

  • avatar
    relton

    This just in.

    Cadillac will have MANUAL seats in the new ATS, and on some of the CTS models.

    What’s the world coming to?

    Bob


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